A Long Island woman who pleaded guilty to pushing a veteran Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern was denied a fair hearing until her death because she is white, her attorney said.
Lauren Pazienza, 27, attacked the 87-year-old singing coach on a sidewalk in Chelsea last March and violently pushed her to the ground.
On Wednesday, hours after the heiress to a large, drain-draining empire pleaded guilty, her lawyer, Arthur Aidala, told DailyMail.com that she had been discriminated against.
Aidala, whose standard rate is $950 an hour and whose past clients include Rudy Giuliani and Harvey Weinstein, said that if Pazienza weren’t white, “she would never be charged with first-degree manslaughter.”
“It’s just ignorant, naive and inaccurate to say race doesn’t matter here and in media coverage,” Aidala told DailyMail.com.
Lauren Pazienza pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday for pushing Barbara Maier Gustern to her death in an unprovoked assault. Pazienza is pictured with her lawyer, Arthur Aidala
Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern died in a hospital five days after the accidental shoving attack in March 2022
“There’s only media coverage because it’s a white girl.”
“If this was a young African American woman pushing an 87-year-old African American woman in Inwood, Manhattan, you might not even know about it.”
Pazienza is expected to serve eight years in prison for the murder – significantly less time behind bars than the 25-year sentence she faced in court. She will be sentenced on September 29.
Pazienza has been held on Rikers Island for over a year since the apparently unmotivated attack.
Aidala told DailyMail.com that it was ridiculous that she was being held in prison ahead of her trial.
“On the day of the indictment, I stood in front of the judge in the courtroom,” Aidala said.
“Four or five cases before me were all African-American males.” They all had serious crime records. Prosecutors didn’t even ask for bail.
“Now my little white girl has no prior convictions for any major crime. They wanted pre-trial detention – pre-trial detention means jail no matter how much money you raise.”
Pazienza’s well-known lawyer Arthur Aidala (left) and her parents (right)
Pazienza, who has been held at Rikers since she was charged last year, will be sentenced on September 29
2022: Lauren Pazienza is charged with manslaughter in Manhattan Supreme Court for causing the death of Barbara Gustern. She was put in prison because she was at risk of escaping
Police released these images of Pazienza, claiming she was responsible for the attack. She turned herself in two days later
Gustern’s grandson AJ (left) said Pazienza was glad she could afford such competent legal counsel
Pazienza sits next to her lawyer in tears on Wednesday. She agreed to a deal that puts her behind bars for eight years
Aidala said he protested that the decision was unfair.
“I said to the judge, ‘Did you see what just happened, judge?’ These five cases right in front of her, guys with big criminal records, violent men – no bail. Then this young lady, 125 pounds, is the one who cannot walk. Her mother is here, her grandmother is here and her father.’
Gustern died five days after being pushed by Pazienza and was hospitalized with serious head injuries.
It was later claimed that Pazienza, who didn’t know her victim, ran across the street and called the singing coach “ab****” before pushing her.
Before the seemingly random attack, Pazienza had had several glasses of wine with her fiancé while they were celebrating 100 days until the wedding. She may also have taken Xanax.
“She was on drugs, she had maybe two bottles of wine and a ton of marijuana,” Aidala said.
She had been thrown out of Chelsea Park, which was about to close, when she stomped across the street and attacked Gustern.
Aidala told DailyMail.com that his client had no intention of harming Gustern, so the charges were unjustified.
He said they hoped to have their sentence reduced.
“She was bombed – according to the law, if you’re so drunk that you can’t develop an intention, you have to cut it down,” he said.
“Our expert says she was so drunk she couldn’t have imagined an intention. She is now being interviewed by her expert. I will receive his report within the next three weeks.
“Your expert always works for the prosecution and my expert works for both sides, so I’m optimistic.”
“She was on drugs, she had maybe two bottles of wine and a ton of marijuana,” defense attorney Arthur Aidala alleged in a Manhattan criminal courtroom in June
Pazienza, who is seen on family vacations as a teenager, appears to have lived a privileged and later glamorous life in New York high society before ending up behind bars
Pazienza is currently incarcerated on Rikers Island but grew up in a wealthy family on Long Island and enjoyed Manhattan high society. She can be seen above in photos from her teenage years
Pazienza’s fiancee previously revealed that she had “several glasses of wine” while the couple were celebrating their engagement before the attack.
Aidala said the pair had a fight, and Pazienza stormed out, had a drink in the park, and then confronted Gustern.
She then reportedly watched as an ambulance took the frail elderly woman away while blood oozed from her head.
Pazienza, prosecutors claim, then spent the next two weeks covering their tracks. She quit her job, deleted her social media pages, and even hid her phone at her aunt’s Long Island home after fleeing her apartment in Astoria, where she lives with her fiancé, a Microsoft employee.
After several weeks, she finally turned herself in to the NYPD after police released footage of her as a suspect in the attack.
Her former friends said it was “no surprise” that Pazienza was accused of the disturbing crime.
“What upset me the most was that her attorney said she was over her head and that she was a good and moral person. “She’s not,” said one.
“I knew her very well at school and she was a total nuisance.”
According to the former classmate, “She’s the poster child for white privilege.” She’s never faced the consequences in her life. Her parents helped her and got her out of everything, but she called her stupid and simple.”
An acquaintance also said she tends to make fun of people and make derogatory remarks, “fat people and deaf people…everyone.”
Footage shared with DailyMail.com also showed the 27-year-old taunting what appeared to be deaf people, contorting her face while shrieking and pretending to have a disability.